Ex-PM John Turner eulogized as exemplary politician; COVID limits number of guests

Members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police carry the casket of former Canadian prime minister John Turner out of St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica during his state funeral service for in Toronto on Tuesday, October 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan DenetteMembers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police carry the casket of former Canadian prime minister John Turner out of St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica during his state funeral service for in Toronto on Tuesday, October 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Former Canadian prime minister John Turner attends an Economic Club of Canada luncheon in Toronto on Monday December 15 2014. Former Liberal prime minister John Turner is being laid to rest in Toronto today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris YoungFormer Canadian prime minister John Turner attends an Economic Club of Canada luncheon in Toronto on Monday December 15 2014. Former Liberal prime minister John Turner is being laid to rest in Toronto today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Elizabeth Turner, daughter of former Canadian prime minister John Turner, pats his casket on her way to speak during his state funeral service at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica in Toronto on Tuesday, October 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan DenetteElizabeth Turner, daughter of former Canadian prime minister John Turner, pats his casket on her way to speak during his state funeral service at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica in Toronto on Tuesday, October 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police carry the casket of former Canadian prime minister John Turner out of St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica during his state funeral service for in Toronto on Tuesday, October 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan DenetteMembers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police carry the casket of former Canadian prime minister John Turner out of St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica during his state funeral service for in Toronto on Tuesday, October 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and wife Sophie Gregorie Trudeau kneel and pray during the state funeral service for former Canadian prime minister John Turner at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica in Toronto on Tuesday, October 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan DenettePrime Minister Justin Trudeau and wife Sophie Gregorie Trudeau kneel and pray during the state funeral service for former Canadian prime minister John Turner at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica in Toronto on Tuesday, October 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Msgr. Samuel Bianco wears a mask as he looks over the casket during the state funeral service for former Canadian prime minister John Turner at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica in Toronto on Tuesday, October 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan DenetteMsgr. Samuel Bianco wears a mask as he looks over the casket during the state funeral service for former Canadian prime minister John Turner at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica in Toronto on Tuesday, October 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Former prime minister John Turner was eulogized at a state funeral on Tuesday as a gifted politician with a strong social conscience and profound love for the environment who spent decades serving his fellow Canadians.

An invited list of 170 mourners — among them the current prime minister and Turner’s closest family — were on hand at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica for the televised service ahead of a private interment.

The U.K.-born Turner, Canada’s 17th prime minister, died peacefully at home on Sept. 19, his family said. He was 91.

One of the mourners, Sean Conacher, called Turner a “great Canadian” and a politician worth emulating.

“I’m here to honour him,” said Conacher, a long-time family friend. “In light of what’s happening now in politics, he hearkened to a past that I think we need more of, where public service is important.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who since childhood had known Turner, echoed that sentiment in an address to mourners.

“Today, more than ever, we need more people like John,” Trudeau said. “His legacy calls on us not to wait for change to happen but to stand up and build a better country for everyone.”

While the recently renovated cathedral has a capacity for 1,600 people, concerns over the spread of COVID-19 prompted organizers to limit the guest list. Many in attendance wore black face masks and were spaced out among the pews to maintain physical distance. There was also no communal singing.

As sunlight filtered through the stained-glass windows, Turner’s daughter Elizabeth Turner praised her father as a dedicated politician and public servant who, despite the demands of public life, never failed to make time for his family and friends.

“John Turner believed in taking the high road,” she said. “He handled himself with great grace and dignity and he always maintained his sense of humour.”

Once dubbed “Canada’s Kennedy” when he first arrived in Ottawa in the 1960s, the athletic John Turner ultimately represented three provinces as a Liberal member of Parliament. He served as solicitor general and justice and finance minister in various cabinets before his brief, 79-day stint as prime minister in 1984.

Others at the state funeral spoke of Turner’s unbridled love for the outdoors and travels to Canada’s Far North. When anyone complained about the weather, he would gently chide them with: “Are you a Canadian or a tourist?” his daughter said.

Born in 1929 in England, John Napier Wyndham Turner moved to Canada in 1932 after the early death of his father. An Olympic-calibre track star, he would go on to study law.

Turner first entered politics in 1962 when he won a seat in the Quebec riding of St-Laurent-St-Georges.

“Democracy does not happen by accident,” his family later cited him as saying repeatedly.

In 1965, then-prime minister Lester Pearson named Turner to cabinet, two years before Trudeau’s father Pierre Trudeau and fellow prime minister-to-be Jean Chretien landed cabinet posts.

Turner ran to succeed Pearson in 1968, but lost to Pierre Trudeau, who appointed him as justice minister, a post he used to help create Federal Court and a national legal aid system.

He defended the decriminalization of homosexuality and abortion in the 1960s, but also martial law and the suspension of civil liberties during the October Crisis of 1970.

He once saved then-Opposition leader John Diefenbaker from drowning during a vacation in Barbados.

Turner married his wife, Geills McCrae Kilgour, great-niece of Col. John McCrae who wrote “In Flanders Fields,” in 1963. Besides daughter Elizabeth, the couple had three sons, Michael, David and Andrew.

After leaving politics in 1976, he spent nearly a decade as a corporate lawyer on Bay Street before returning to politics after Pierre Trudeau resigned. Turner won the 1984 Liberal leadership race over Chretien in a bitterly divided contest.

Turner, who opposed free trade with the U.S., called an election nine days after he was sworn into office as prime minister. The poorly prepared and divided party proved no match for Brian Mulroney and his Progressive Conservatives.

Turner resigned as party leader in 1990 and left politics three years later, joining a Toronto law firm.

Despite declining health, he was a mainstay at many Liberal events. He gave speeches reminding the party of its golden years, sprinkled with wild stories about life on the political trail.

With files from John Chidley-Hill

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Canada

Just Posted

(File photo from The Canadian Press)
Red Deer down to 66 active COVID-19 cases

Red Deer has lowest number of active cases since last November

Orange shirts, shoes, flowers and messages are displayed on the steps outside the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 following a ceremony hosted by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations in honour of the 215 residential school children whose remains have been discovered buried near the facility in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Alberta city cancels Canada Day fireworks at site of former residential school

City of St. Albert says that the are where the display was planned, is the site of the former Youville Residential School

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Alberta reports 100 new cases of COVID-19

The Central zone sits at 218 active cases

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer drops to 71 active cases of COVID-19

Province adds 127 new cases of the virus

A person stands in a tower on the perimeter of the Number 3 Detention Center in Dabancheng in western China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on April 23, 2021. Human rights groups and Western nations led by the United States, Britain and Germany accused China of massive crimes against the Uyghur minority and demanded unimpeded access for U.N. experts at a virtual meeting on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 denounced by China as “politically motivated” and based on “lies.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark Schiefelbein
VIDEO: Trudeau demands truth from China about Uyghurs

PM says Canada has admitted broken Indigenous relationship, unlike China on Uyghurs

Children walk with their parents to Sherwood Park Elementary in North Vancouver for the first day back to school on Sept. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Study reassures parents, teachers that COVID-19 infrequently shared at school

Federally funded study in Vancouver finds risk in the classroom and in the community identical

Conservative MP Kevin Waugh rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday April 13, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Single-game sports betting about to become legal in Canada

Senate passes bill to take sports gambling away from overseas agencies

Air Canada planes sit on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pilots say no reason to continue quarantines for vaccinated international travellers

Prime minister says Canada still trying to limit number of incoming tourists

Fans watch the warm-up before Game 6 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens in NHL playoff hockey action Saturday, May 29, 2021 in Montreal. Quebec’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions will allow 2,500 fans to attend the game for the first time in fourteen months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Two-thirds of Canadians say governments shouldn’t lift all COVID-19 restrictions

Poll reports Canadians who gained pandemic weight say they have gained 16 pounds on average

Paul Bernardo is shown in this courtroom sketch during Ontario court proceedings via video link in Napanee, Ont., on October 5, 2018. Teen killer and serial rapist Paul Bernardo is set for a parole hearing today. The designated dangerous offender, has been eligible for full parole for more than three years. Bernardo’s horrific crimes in the 1980s and early 1990s include for kidnapping, torturing and killing Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy near St. Catharines, Ont. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Banning
Killer rapist denied parole, Paul Bernardo, had plans to relocate to Kelowna

Designated dangerous offender has been eligible for full parole for more than three years

People look over the damage after a tornado touched down in Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal, Monday, June 21, 2021. Dozens of homes were damaged and one death has been confirmed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
One dead and extensive damage as tornado hits Mascouche, Que., north of Montreal

Damage reported in several parts of the city, and emergency teams dispatched to sectors hardest hit

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

A pair of Alberta residents were arrested after police responded to a report of a woman who had allegedly been assaulted and confined against her will on June 20, 2021. (File photo)
Salmon Arm RCMP arrest 2 Albertans suspected in alleged assault, unlawful confinement

Firearms, stolen items seized including NHL hockey cards believed to be worth thousands

Most Read